ESPN asked their beat writers about their team’s biggest rival and oh, man, I feel bad for the rest of the AFC East.
Bills writer Mike Rodak said that the Patriots were Buffalo’s biggest rival, calling upon a “‘David vs. Goliath’ mentality that get Bills fans fired up for every meeting with the Patriots.”
Dolphins writer James Walker noted that Miami “have chased the Patriots for the past 15 years in the AFC East. That makes New England the biggest rival for Miami.”
Jets writer Rich Cimini called the choice “easy” and that “every Jets-Patriots game has a soap opera-like subplot.”
The three other teams in the AFC East look to the Patriots as their biggest rivals. And the Patriots don’t even look back.
“If forced to pick a team as the biggest rival, let’s go Colts,” Patriots writer Mike Reiss answered. “It comes back to that whole Deflategate thing, as well as the games they’ve often played having the highest stakes.”
That’s brutal. The three division rivals are chasing the Patriots and New England won’t even acknowledge their existence.
Having the rest of the division hate you isn’t a unique situation. The AFC North all pointed to the Steelers, but at least Pittsburgh credited the Ravens. The whole NFC East highlighted the Cowboys and Dallas pointed back at the Giants. The NFC North all hates the Packers and Green Bay hates Minnesota back.
Reiss had to go out of the division to find a worthy rival- and, let’s be serious, they haven’t been worthy as of late- and dismissed the rest of the division as not worthy of consideration.
But that’s okay. The Patriots weren’t the only team to pick an out-of-division rival. The Colts and the Broncos were the only two other teams to pick an outsider- and both consider the Patriots to be their biggest rival.
“The road to the Super Bowl often went through New England during the 2000s for the Colts,” Colts writer Mike Wells notes. “The same remains true today for quarterback Andrew Luck and coach Chuck Pagano, as they're 0-5, including two playoff losses, against Brady and Belichick.”
“In the past eight seasons, especially in Peyton Manning's time with the Broncos, the team that stirred the blood of the fan base the most was the Patriots,” Broncos writer Jeff Legwold confirmed. “Perhaps because the schedule had fallen so that the Patriots have looked strangely like a division opponent. Since the start of the 2008 season, the Broncos have faced the Patriots 10 times, including three playoff games, and two of those postseason games were for the AFC championship.”
The Patriots have been to five straight AFC Championship games and it makes sense that their top rivals are the ones that stand in the way of another title. The Broncos and Colts (okay, and the Ravens) are the only teams within the conference that have consistently disrupted the Patriots within the conference during the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era.
Sorry AFC East. Perhaps the hate will be more reciprocated once Brady’s decline starts in the year 2030.